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Do you know who is the "King of the Paddle and Roll"?


Firstly I would like to thank you Dormeshia Sumbry Edward for passing down the knowledge to me! We met in 2019 Seoul Tap Festival.

Lon Chaney, the rhythm tap dancer hailed as the "King of the Paddle and Roll," was born Isaiah Chaneyfield in South Carolina. Trained as a boxer, he became interested in tap dance when he moved to New York City where, in the time-honored tradition of tap dance, he learned to tap in the street. As his sister Evelyn Peterson recalled, "He saw someone dancing, loved it and asked how to do it." He shortened his last name and renamed himself Lon, not after the Hollywood Chaneys, but because he liked the name. In the 1960's and 70's, Chaney began performing with The Original Hoofers, a fraternity of rhythm tap dancers that at one time or another included Chuck Green, Jimmy Slyde, Ralph Brown, Baby Laurence, and Raymond Kaalund. In 1969, The Hoofers participated in the Bert Wheeler Theatre in Tap Happenings (1969), demonstrating with ease how tap had no one rhythmic style or sensibility. Given the size of the foot, the weight and build of the dancer, the influences in the training, each was unto his own as to how to play the lexicon of basic steps that comprised the shuffle, flap, hop, and stomp.

Lon Chaney and Dr. Bunny Briggs did not invent the paddle and roll, but instead developed the step to its maximum potential.

There are four elements to the paddle and roll: a dig, a back brush of the ball of the foot, stepping on the ball of the foot, and a heel. The “paddle” constitutes the dig and the brush, while the roll is the action of dropping the toe and heel in a smooth and controlled motion.

Other names for the paddle and roll include the drumming term paradiddles and the gangster-inspired Tommy Gun.

Some say that the paddle and roll originated in the Midwest as an answer to the East coast style of dancing, and dancer/choreographer Buddy Bradley owes the step to the Flamenco style of dancing. Regardless of its origin, the paddle and roll has become one of the most popular tap steps and is often the first step that comes to mind when students are asked at random to show off some steps.

To say that any tap dancer is king of the paddle and roll may land you in hot water.

There have been plenty of contenders for that title. The first man to proclaim himself master of the paddle and roll was Walter Green, a tap dancer who had arrived in New York from Chicago in 1937. Green put out a challenge to all dancers that no one would be able to best his superior foot technique, the paddle and roll. Local tough guys Ralph Brown, Freddie James, Albert Gibson, and Chuck Green set him straight.

No other dancer is identified more with the paddle and roll than another tap icon, Lon Chaney.

A short, stout man, Lon Chaney danced into the floor, and his rippling paddle and roll variations created quick, staccato tapping combined with bold phrases of rhythm. At the end of tap dance performances, it is not uncommon for the tap dancers to form the so-called “Chaney track” or the “Hoofer’s Line”; at the climax of the show, the dancers form a line and rattle off a long stream of paddle and rolls. Each performer takes a small solo accompanied by the steady call and response chanting of “Ho-yeah, Ho-yeah, Ho-yeah, Ho-yeeaaahhh!” Needless to say, most tap dancers hold Lon Chaney in the highest regard.

He performed with the Original Hoofers in the 1960's and 1970's. He was a featured dancer in the Paris Production of "Black and Blue in 1996 and also in that musical's 1989 Tony award winning Broadway production.


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